Here are some great self-publishing resources from journalists and authors of all shapes and sizes.
“Why You Should Self-Publish” by Hugh Howey, New York Times bestselling author (his self-pubbed book Dust debuted at #7 on the NY Times E-book list in September)
“Why I’m Risking My New Book by Self-Publishing Even Though I’m a Bestselling Author” by Frank Schaeffer, New York Times bestselling author
“New Publisher Authors Trust: Themselves” by Leslie Kaufman (New York Times)
“5 Reasons to Admire Self-Publishing” by Alison Baverstock
“How to Prince Your E-book and Survive in the Amazon” (Independent Publisher)
“Indie Groundbreaking Book: APE—Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur” (Independent Publisher)
“How to (Self) Publish: The Ins and Outs of Popular Publishing Paths” (Independent Publisher)
Why Big Authors Self-Publish
And Why You Should Too
Recently, a lot of big name authors have chosen to self-publish or release certain editions of their books on their own. For famous writers of years past, self-publishing was a rite of passage—think of folks such as Mark Twain, Virginia Wolff, Edgar Allen Poe, Rudyard Kipling, and Walt Whitman, to name a few. Joyce’s Ulysses was a self-pub, as were The Adventures of Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter), The Elements of Style (William Strunk, Jr.), and The Joy of Cooking.
Today, self-publishing is seeing another boom in popularity and in success. J. K. Rowling decided to go sans-publisher for the ebook editions of the Harry Potter series. New York Times bestselling author Hugh Howey self-published his latest novel, Dust, (and hit #7 on the bestseller list) and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet will be going it alone on his next project. You have to ask yourself, if the big guys are doing it, why not me? That, my friend, is the question.
Now, to be fair, many big-name authors have a distinct advantage when it comes to venturing into the self-publishing industry. First, they are not novice authors—they know the ins and outs of the business and can plan for most of the hurdles that may be in their paths. Second, they have already built up a following and likely have the Internet presence (websites, blogs, and social media), to get that audience interested in a new book. Third, they have resources (connections, dollars, and experience), that new or unknown authors just can’t get.
But that doesn’t mean that many of the same pros and cons don’t apply to all writers. We’ve broken down some of the best and worst aspects of self-publishing so authors can see what they are getting into.
The Benefits of Self-Publishing
· Control. Even the biggest author at the best publishing house in the world does not have complete control over his or her book. The design team may pick a certain cover; the publisher may want a new title; and the editor might ask for a favorite secondary character to be cut out of the story. When you choose to self-publishing, you have the first and last say in every matter (though it doesn’t hurt to get a few outside opinions).
· Rights. The vast majority of publishing houses will retain some portion of the rights to your book. In contrast, the vast majority of self-publishing platforms allow the author to have complete ownership of the rights, which allows the author more freedom to use their book in different ways.
· Royalties. All publishers, self-pub companies, and distributors (such as Amazon) are different, but generally speaking you can expect to earn more per book with a self-pub than a traditionally published book. The first step is to find the right price point for your platform and your readers.
· No rejection letters. If you want to self-publishing a book, you can. You can find a company to help you put together an ebook and post it online within a matter of days, and you don’t have to rely on an agent or a publisher to tell you yay or nay. (Fun fact: even monster bestsellers like The Help (Kathryn Stockett) can be rejected dozens of times before publication.)
· Opportunity. If a print deal is a dream come true for you, self-publishing might not be a bad start—authors whose books sell well in ebook form can earn themselves traditional publishing deals. Examples: Amanda Hocking, E. L. James, and John Locke (the author, not the philosopher).
· No pigeonholing. When you work with a publisher, you can often get stuck writing in one style for your whole career. If you choose to self-publish, you have much greater flexibility when it comes to switching genres, audiences, and topics.
· No advance. Granted, the average advance for a first-time author tends to range between $1,000 and $10,000 (unless the author or book is one in a million). But no self-publishing company or publishing services firm is going to give an author money up front.
· Keeping an eye on the costs. It may seem like self-publishing is the cheapest option, but keep in mind that YOU are the one footing the bill. Normally, the publisher will pay for editing, design, marketing, distribution, and so forth, but in a self-publishing scenario, those are your bills. Finding ways to keep costs down will serve you well in the long run.
· You’re on your own.Without a publisher, authors find themselves wearing many hats—author, editor, marketer, publicist, sales rep, etc. Of course, you can always hire people to do those jobs, but it’s rarely the same as having a publishing house behind you.
· The competition. Selling in any book marketplace is a challenge these days, but getting your book attention in a sea of self-published ebooks can be daunting. Authors need to find ways to set themselves apart from the crowd—the best ways to do that are to have A) an excellent product, B) a marketplace strategy, and C) great reader relationships.
· Slow results. Not all books, even great ones, are immediate bestsellers, and this is particularly true for self-publishers. It takes time and effort to see monetary results and to gain momentum among readers.
· Getting a physical product. Going digital is easy, but if you want a print book, distribution can be a very difficult as a self-published author. Working with a publishing services firm can be extremely useful, but know that many bookstores and other retailers are still skeptical about selling self-pubbed products.
Of course, there are plenty of other advantages and disadvantages to self-publishing, and every book and author will be different. But never lose faith—if the bestselling authors of the world are joining the self-publishing movement, that means something is working. Check out the sidebar for articles from bestselling authors who have chosen to make the leap, as well as resources about how to make the most of your self-publishing experience.
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Jillian Bergsma is a writer and contributing editor for Independent Publisher. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English. She welcomes any questions or comments on her articles at jbergsma (at) bookpublishing.com.